About Caroline Preble

I'm a gal who thinks that there is always a reason to celebrate! I am a wife and mom to two great girls, and a former elementary teacher who has turned my love for all things fun and creative into a website to share with friends everywhere.

Teacher Christmas Gift Ideas

Gift ideas for teachers

 If you have kiddos in your home then you know it’s almost time for winter break! The holidays are a great time to stop and say thank you to your children’s hard working and dedicated teachers. Both Larissa and I were teachers and we know how much it means to be thought of during the holidays. It doesn’t even have to be a gift — a thoughtful note of appreciation is often more valued than any store bought present. Here are a few of our favorite teacher Christmas gift ideas…

snowflake divider imageThank You Notes or Holiday Cards — Nothing means more to a teacher than to know that they are making a difference in the lives of their students. A heartfelt note from a child or parents letting them know how important they are can be one of the best teacher Christmas gift ideas possible.

Christmas cookies in a jar

Click for directions on how to make cookies in a jar

A Handmade Gift — It might seem corny, but a gift that a child has put time into making often means more to a teacher than something from a store (certainly more than another mug or candle).  A handmade ornament or baked treat is always appreciated. When my girls were little we would spend an afternoon together assembling cookies in a jar that held all the dry ingredients for some fun holiday cookies layered into a mason jar and tied off with a ribbon and baking directions. These were great for teachers, neighbors, friends, and other helpers like our mailman and hair dresser.

A Class Group Gift — If you have a room parent who is good at organizing everyone, a class gift can be a super idea. You could go in together on one larger item, present an assortment of different gift cards, or if you are really organized, do an early collection of donations and present one small gift a day to your teacher for each day during the last week or month of school.

Gift Cards — If you can’t decide what to get for your teacher, gift cards are always a safe and appreciated option. You could go in with a group for a card to a favorite store or restaurant, or get a smaller card on your own for something like coffee or a movie.

Whatever you decide to do, know that it will mean a lot to your child’s teacher. Happy holidays!

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10 Great Holiday Party Themes

A Christmas Caroling Party A Christmas Cookie Party An Ornament Exchange Party An Ugly Christmas Sweater Party A White Elephant Party A Minute to Win It Christmas Party A Gift Wrapping Party A Gingerbread House Party A Winter Wonderland Party A Winter Sledding Party Image Map

Well, Thanksgiving is over and the holiday season is upon us. What better way to spread Christmas cheer than by hosting a party. Here are 10 great holiday party themes, with lots of festive seasonal ideas, to help inspire you.

(Click on the text links for any party theme to find more ideas for planning.)

snowflake divider image1. Gift Wrapping Party —  This is a great holiday party theme makes the job of getting all those presents wrapped a lot more fun! Invite 2-3 friends over for some snacks and winter cheer while getting your wrapping done! On your invitation, ask each guest to bring their gifts to be wrapped, along with 3 rolls of wrapping paper, 1 roll of tape, 1 pair of scissors, 2+ varieties of ribbon, and any other fun decorative items they may have to contribute.  Light a fire, clear a table, and get creative!

2. Gingerbread House Party — This is a fun holiday party idea for any age, and everyone comes away with a great souvenir to decorate holiday table.  Start with a pre-made gingerbread house for each family, group, or individual. You can usually find these at your local grocery store or a craft store such as Michael’s.  Spread plastic disposable tablecloths on all your work tables. Then set out a variety of decorations that can be used on the houses. You can make things even more fun by having a contest for the most elaborate, colorful, delicious looking final project!

gingerbread house

3. Cookie Exchange Party — This is another yummy holiday party theme. You could set this party up as a cookie exchange, where each guest brings a certain number of their favorite holiday treats to swap with each party guest, or you could host a cookie decorating party, where you provide lots of pre-cut sugar cookies, frostings and toppings, and let your guests have fun decorating cookies to take home.

4. Ugly Christmas Sweater Party — This one really needs little explanation. Ask your guests to break out their favorite Christmas sweaters for this holiday event and be sure to have your camera ready!

5. White Elephant Party — This holiday party theme is my personal favorite. Every guest brings a silly wrapped gift (set a price limit) and at some point during the evening everyone sits down for a madcap exchange game. (For complete directions on white elephant exchange rules, click here.)

white elephant with frame

6. Sledding Party — If you get snow in your neck of the woods, a sledding party can be a fun way to get everyone outside and having fun. Find a great hill and ask your guests to bring along their own sled (a garbage can lid or cafeteria tray can also work). Provide thermoses of hot cocoa, cookies, and maybe some Hot Hands mitten warmers!

7. Minute to Win It Christmas Party — Minute to Win It games can be great ice breakers sure to get your party guests mingling and laughing. Here are some holiday themed Minute to Win It games sure to liven up your Christmas party.

8. Ornament Exchange Party — Here is another one of the great holiday party themes where your guests get to bring home a special souvenir from the day. There are a number of different ways you could set up an ornament exchange party. You could have an ornament themed white elephant party, you could have each guest bring one special (wrapped) ornament, put numbers on each, and have guests pull from a hat to see which they take home, or if you have crafty friends, have each bring a handmade ornament to give to each party guests so everyone leaves with a special collection of unique ornaments from the event.



9. Christmas Caroling Party — Love holiday music? Invite everyone over for some Christmas caroling. Think about offering songbooks for each guest, and having a guitarist to accompany your singers. You might even invite a local glee club or school choir for a special treat.

10. Winter Wonderland Themed Party — Want a party with a little sparkle?  A winter themed party is great for before the holidays and on into the new year. Think silver, white, and blue in your party decorations and maybe include a blue themed drink like these fun “Sleightinis” that we found at Betty Crocker.com

Ingredientsblue sleightini cocktail recipe

  •  Lime wedge
  • Coarse sugar or granulated sugar
  • Ice cubes
  • 1/4 cup cranberry juice cocktail
  • 2 tablespoons (1 oz) citron vodka or vodka
  • 2 tablespoons (1 oz) blue curacao
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Directions

  • 1 Moisten rim of chilled martini glass with lime wedge. Sprinkle sugar onto small plate, and dip moistened rim into the sugar to coat lightly.
  • 2 Fill cocktail shaker with ice. Add cranberry juice, vodka, curacao and lime juice; cover and shake. Strain into martini glass.

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Letters to Santa

letters to Santa

It’s about that time of year when the little ones (and often the not so little ones) in our lives start thinking about Christmas, whether they’ve been naughty or nice this year, and what they dream Santa might bring them. We took a look around and found so many great ways for today’s Christmas wishers to make contact with Santa Claus, either online or through traditional letters to Santa. Here are some of the best things we found:

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Online:

NORAD Tracks Santa — NORAD is the abbreviation for the North American Aerospace Defense Command and they have been officially tracking Santa since 1955. Truly! Since my kids were little this has been our go-to website on Christmas Eve to see exactly where in the world Santa is (and more importantly if they need to be rushing to bed!) Now they have an updated website with games, movies, and music, plus an official Christmas countdown, so you can visit anytime for some pre-holiday fun. This site kicks off on December 1st.

Email Santa.com — This is a fun site where kids can email Santa and get a reply back. We especially like it because they do not need to submit their last name, email address, or any other personal information. This website also has lots of Christmas games, stories, jokes and other fun holiday activities. Another similar option with some different graphics and activities you might take a look at is A Letter 4 Santa.com.

Hand Written:

The US Postal Service Letters From Santa Program —  Click on the link to see the full description of how this program works, but basically your child writes a letter to the North Pole (with an important step for parents before mailing it). Then you send it off and it will come back (very officially) in the mailbox with a North Pole postmark.

There are lots and lots of different printable templates for you to download and have your kiddos use when writing letters to Santa. One great resource we found is on Playdough to Plato. They offer three different coordinating templates for kids of different ages and writing abilities, plus some Santa letterhead for you.

free printable letters to Santa





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Great Cocktails for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving drink ideas

Well, the leaves are falling and the weather is turning nippy. It must be getting close to Thanksgiving! Is it your turn to host the big dinner this year! Here are some options for great cocktails for Thanksgiving (or anytime, really!) Cheers!

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1. The Pumpkin Pie–tini

Yes, we’re bringing tis one back and putting it at the top of the list because it’s so dang delicious!

Here’s how to make it:

  • 1 oz. milk
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • 1 ½ oz. Vanilla vodka
  • 1 ½ oz. crème de cacao

Using a small amount of honey, rim martini glass with graham cracker crumbs.

Shake milk and pumpkin puree over ice to combine. Pour in remaining ingredients and shake well. Strain into the martini glass.

 

2. Cranberry Hamiltons

These are a party favorite around the holidays in our house. Perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmastime!

  • A shot of tequila
  • Half a shot of Rose’s lime juice
  • Three shots of cranberry juice
  •  A slice of lime.

Serve over ice.

 


 

3. Apple Pie Spiced Cider (with or without alcohol)

Mmm…apple pie. We adapted this cozy warm drink from a Martha Stewart recipe.

1 1/4 quarts apple cider

  • 3 tablespoons firmly packed light-brown sugar
  • 7 whole cinnamon sticks, (6 sticks for garnish)
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Ground cloves
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup Calvados, or other brandy (optional)

Mix together all of the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and add the brandy if you want it in there. Pour into a large pitcher, straining out the solids. Serve the drinks in mugs garnished with cinnamon sticks.

4. Hard Cider Sangria

  • 1 cup quartered and thinly sliced unpeeled green, yellow and red apples
  • 1 navel orange—quartered and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 cup apple juice, chilled
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup apple brandy
  • One 22-ounce bottle hard apple cider, chilled
  • Ice

In a pitcher, combine the apples with the orange, apple juice, lemon juice and brandy. Just before serving, add the hard cider. Serve in tall glasses over ice.   (from foodandwine.com)


5. Mulled Wine

Another warm cocktail favorite for all the winter holidays. This one will also make your house smell fantastic!

  • 1 1/2 cups Port wine
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 cup Cointreau or Gran Marnier
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • zest of 2 oranges, cut in strips
  • 10 cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 bottles dry red wine

Combine all the ingredients except the 2 bottles of red wine in a heavy large pot with a lid. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered until reduced to 2 cups, 12-15 minutes. Add red wine and warm over low heat with the lid on the pot. Do not boil.  Strain your drink into glasses or mugs.  Garnish with fresh orange slices.

 

6. Pumpkin Ale served with a cinnamon-sugar rim

This is my (non-cocktail loving) husband’s favorite fall drink. Better than that, it’s super easy! You can find pumpkin ale all over at this time of year. Some good ones include Blue Moon Harvest Moon Ale, Pumpking, Samuel Adams Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale, and Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale.

To serve, keep your beer steins in the freezer for a while to get them cold. Pour a mixture of sugar and cinnamon on a small plate. Twist the mouth of your beer stein in the cinnamon mixture to get a nice sugary rim. Enjoy!

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